Author: Heather Dixon
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Synopsis: Azalea and her 11 sisters are princesses in what was once a very magic castle, but is now mostly not magical, with a very few exceptions, and has been running low on finances as well. They have just lost their mother, and their father is no longer acting as though he belongs to the family, leaving Azalea to take care of her 11 sisters. As if that wasn’t enough, the next blow comes when they realize that as the royal family they were all going to be required to participate in a year of mourning, which means no sunlight, no working clocks, black dresses, and NO DANCING. As dancing is their one and only escape, the thing that keeps them centered and acts as an outlet for their emotions, this last part is the hardest of all. After breaking the rules several times and getting caught, Azalea discovers a secret and passage in their room that leads down to a magical forest and pavilion under the castle. It is there that they meet Keeper, who is trapped there as the keeper of the pavilion, and who gives them permission and even encourages them to come back and dance every single night. What Azalea doesn’t realize is that Keepers generosity is not without its costs.
Review: First of all, I added this book to my “to be read” list for one reason – when I read the description on Goodreads, and found out the main girl’s name was Azalea, I HAD to read it. (My daughter’s name is Azalyah, pronounced the same). It was so fun to listen to the book and hear her name over and over, and I hope to one day let her listen to it as well, as I’m sure she will get a kick out of it too. It’s not the most common of names (however beautiful it is). So that being said, I had NO IDEA I was reading a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In fact, the book was almost done, and Keeper was doing a little reprise version of the story before I actually figured it out. It was them forehead-slap moments for me. I should have seen it from the beginning. Anyhow, since I’ve never watched a movie or read a book in the past based on this story, I cannot compare other versions with how I felt about the book – so there will be no Barbie Princess comparison here…(I’m sure you all are sighing in relief, right?)
So this book was so beautifully written, and read (props to the narrator). The accent the book was read in was slightly British, which made me think of a Victorian setting. I’m not sure if that was the intention or not, but it worked well. There were moments when I couldn’t help but make associations back to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast , what with the Teapot and sugar tongs with the bad attitude and all. I am incredibly impressed with Heather Dixion’s ability to have so many girls, and so many different personalities, and for those personalities to remain consistent throughout the book. Of course, a few of the sisters were young enough to not really have much of a part of the book, so it wasn’t exactly 12, but it was enough! I wish I could sit here and name them all – but having listened to the book, not read it – all I’ve got for you is Azalea, Bramble, and Clover, then I’m stuck. I’m pretty positive the baby was Lily.
This book was a tiny bit bi-polar on whether it was going to be a nice princess-y type book, or whether it was going to be dark and gothic. This is not necessarily bad. The thing is Azalea and her sisters were not dark nor gothic at all. They wanted a bright happy life filled with dancing and..well I was going to say men, but I really think they might have been happy with just the dancing. If the world was as it should have been for these sisters, they would have been outside every day in the sunshine, with rainbows and butterflies, dancing the day away. However, the girls did know and understand their responsibilities as princesses, and they did take those responsibilities about as seriously as they were capable to for their ages. And since their world was not as it should have been, they were trapped in darkness and did with it what they could. However, I will say, that the darkest and most gothic parts of the book came when Keeper started revealing his true self to Azalea. He was the perfect mix of “the bad guy you love, “ and “the bad guy you love to hate.” He sort of had a Phantom of the Opera thing going on there, what with living beneath the castle, and being undeniably attractive and all. But when his story started to unravel, I went from thinking that this book would be great for thirteen year olds, to..eh, maybe 15 or 16 will be more appropriate, as it had a sort of creepy, nightmare factor going on there at the end.
I think one part that sort of threw me for a loop was their general not much reaction to losing their mother. She was sick for a long time, and Azalea had already been established as the caregiver, but it seems like there would have been more of a reaction. I mean, these are girls, and I don’t care what you say, girls are emotional from the day they are born. I know that dancing was their way of coping, but it doesn’t seem completely believable. I was thankful that the girls were forced to reconcile with their father, and address the fact that he just lost his wife, the love of his life; he actually was in mourning.
What I Loved: The Entwine dance. Now that was sexy! Oh, and isn’t that a beautiful cover???
Not So Much: That Azalea did not dance the Entwine with HER love (yes she has a love, as do Bramble and Clover – I failed to mention above, because those stories seemed so bi-product to the rest of the book). But, with a dance where your partner wraps you up and you are bound to him – this had some very potential electrifyingly hot material – but this book wasn’t really sensual, and I guess it wouldn’t have been appropriate.
Song Dedication: I don’t think I have one. Clare de Lune? It would have to be music only, no words, whatever it is.